January 28, 2002
Can singlehood pose a health risk?
A story released today by ThisisLondon.com reports that according to a new research by
Warwick University, being single can be almost as damaging to your health as smoking.
Smoking is said to wipe five years from the average person's life, while being single
reduces life expectancy by more than three years.
Unmarried people, especially women addicted to smoking in their "singleton"
lifestyle are doubly at risk.
Professor Andrew Oswald of Warwick University said that, by contrast, marriage makes
you healthier, live longer and even get paid on average ££3,000 a year more.
He said the conventional explanation is that marriage lowers stress and worry -
"presumably because sharing worries halves them". Another factor is that married
people smoke less and eat in a healthier way.
Living together is better than living alone and brings some physical and mental health
benefits, he said, but not as many as getting married.
Pope tells officers of the court to
avoid divorce cases
A story released today by Reuters reports that Pope John Paul urged magistrates and
lawyers Monday to avoid working on divorce cases, which he described as "spreading
like the plague."
The Pope, spiritual leader of about one billion Catholics around the world, sent his
warning to the legal profession during an annual meeting with Vatican magistrates.
"Marriage is indissoluble ... it doesn't make any sense to talk about the
'imposition' of human law, because it should reflect and protect natural and divine
law," the Pope said.
"(Divorce) ... has devastating consequences that spread in society like the
As a result, judges and lawyers should refuse to use their professional skills with the
goal of ending marriages, he said.
While magistrates may find it more difficult to avoid being assigned marriage cases,
the Pope said they must strive to prevent divorce.
"Those working in civil law cases should avoid being personally involved in what
could be understood as cooperating in divorce...they should look for effective measures to
favor marriage, above all mediating conciliation," he said.
U.K. marriages bucks trend
A story released today by the BBC News reports that the number of marriages in
England and Wales has risen for the first time in eight years.
There were 267,961 marriages in 2000, a rise of almost 2% from 263,515 in 1999, the
latest statistics reveal. This is the first year to record a rise since 1992.
But religious marriage is still in decline, dropping from 38 to 36% in 2000.
As the divorce rate has also fallen, some think there could be more fundamental forces
Angela Sibson of Relate said: "People are influenced by pop stars and celebrities
and their behavior, but I think what influences them more is a sense of their own needs
and their own needs in relation to the needs of their partner.
"People are very interested now in relationship issues."
But people are still choosing to marry later, with the average age at marriage rising
for men from 34.4 years in 1999 to 34.8 years and for women from 31.8 to 32.1.
Saturday, January 26, 2002
Spinning a new spinster term
A story published by the National Post reports that Winnipeg artist and activist Bev
Pike has rejected that dry designation of being called unmarried. Pike is proudly and
defiantly a spinster, and she plans to blow the crocheted doilies off that taboo term in
an upcoming multimedia show at the University of Manitoba's Gallery 1.1.1.
With The Spinster Project -- an unusually constructed show that centers around one
large-scale painting, a dark, baroque vision of twisting fabric skeins that could pass for
bloody entrails -- the 48-year-old Pike joins a tradition of single female artists (Emily
Carr, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Barbara Pym) associated with acute observation, sharp
satire and stubborn idiosyncrasies.
The Spinster Project came out of Pike's experiences working and volunteering at local
arts organizations. "Last year, I was politically, ah, quite frisky," says Pike,
an outspoken old-school feminist who doesn't mind jumping in where most twentysomethings
fear to tread. "What happens when you're an activist is, people attack you on
personal grounds. And when you're unmarried, people attack you on sexual grounds. They
say, 'You're too bitter,' meaning, 'If you were getting some, you wouldn't worry so much
about inequities,' or 'If you were married, you'd be calmer.' "
Rooted in a medieval reference to the occupation of spinning, the word has been
transformed in the last 200 years into a pejorative term with overwhelmingly prissy
connotations. Spinsters are traditionally thought of as prim, petty, prudish and
persnickety; they eat bland, pale food, have weak constitutions and do nothing but
needlework. The alternative offered by contemporary pop culture is the scary spinster on a
murderous rampage: "The Cruella De Vil, Misery, Fatal Attraction, Single White Female
spinster," as Pike calls her.
In taking back the term "spinster," Pike wants to bring single women in line
with their male equivalents. (Or, rather, non-equivalents. There is no masculine parallel
to the spinster -- just that handsome, worldly, well-dressed guy with the cocktail shaker:
the bachelor.) Pike wants to assure women that being unmarried doesn't have to be scary.
The woman who gets in touch with her inner spinster can let go of Cosmo mag man-hunting
hysteria and Bridget Jones's dithering fears of "dying alone and being found three
weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian." She can forget about the infamous
Harvard-Yale study -- an unfinished and unpublished paper that was widely reported in the
media in the late '80s -- which asserted that an unmarried 40-year-old American woman was
more likely to be killed by terrorists than get to the altar. (Never mind that the study
was later debunked by a Census Bureau employee with a calculator; anti-single
fear-mongering had already set in.)
The spinster can calmly walk away from all this 21st-century angst and connect with
some extraordinary and tough-minded historical predecessors. Pike cites "The Cult of
Single Blessedness," a movement founded in 19th-century New England. "They felt
you needed a celibate community of women to effect social change. Spinsters often cared
for elderly parents, for nieces and nephews. They ran shelters and orphanages. They
campaigned for laws to protect women and children. Spinsters were busy girls," says
Pike's concept of spinsterhood, then, clearly goes beyond mere singleness. A single
woman may get married at some point; she might even become a "divorcee." Being a
spinster, on the other hand, suggests commitment -- a spinster, it is assumed, will stay a
spinster until the day she dies -- and deliberate intent. "I'm not an accidental
spinster," Pike insists. "I know what I'm doing. And there's a relief that comes
from taking yourself out of the race."
The Spinster Project runs until Feb. 22 at Gallery 1.1.1., Winnipeg.
Thursday, January 24, 2002
Nigerian court acquits woman of
A story released today by the Daily Trust reports that the seventeen-year-old Nigerian
woman who has been standing trial for alleged adultery at the Upper Sharia court II,
Sokoto, was discharged and acquitted yesterday.
The acquittal was sequel to the contradictory testimonies of the three prosecution
witnesses who appeared before the court on Tuesday.
In his submission, the defense counsel, Mr. Abdulkadir Imam, yesterday told the court
that his client Hafsatu Abubakar, had retracted her confession of having an illegal affair
with Umaru Shehu, who was discharged and acquitted earlier by the court for want of